Breast Cancer Survivor, Clinical Nurse Specialist and Functional Medicine Practitioner
Every time I see a post or of hear a woman exclaim “I’m cured ” when they are ringing the chemo bell or they have finished treatment my heart aches a little. Don’t get me wrong - I perfectly understand the sheer relief of getting through the ordeal, the hope that getting through chemo means you’ve crossed the finish line and it’s over. It’s understandable. It just takes me back to a time in my own illness when I hoped and felt and thought the same way and figured I'd just do treatment and put it in the rear view mirror since I didn’t have time to be sick Boy, did I have a rude awakening. EVERYTHING changed. It reminds me of the saying “you don’t know what you don’t know”.
Hi my name is Deborah. I’m a breast cancer survivor, RN, Clinical Nurse Specialist and Functional Medicine Practitioner. If you’re unfamiliar with Functional Medicine it is an emerging scientific approach to health and health restoration that looks at the whole picture of an individuals’s experience and the complex interplay of all of the bodies systems in restoring/maintaining health or being in a process of dis-ease.
My journey into functional medicine was less of an organic career choice and more of an outgrowth of my own journey recovering from breast cancer. 10 years after dealing with cervical cancer I was diagnosed with bilateral breast cancer and told I needed a double mastectomy with subsequent hormone therapy. My recovery was not easy and I encountered many complications. It was my quest to resolve these ongoing health issues that eventually led me into integrative health and functional medicine to find answers and solutions my doctors couldn't give me.
As I was addressing my own health issues I realized there was so much information that was needed - not only for me but other breast cancer survivors I knew. What started as a personal journey became a professional passion. As an experienced nurse I can tell you that being empowered, and professionally empowering other women to work in partnership with their doctors, ask questions and challenge what is considered SOC (standard of care) is crucial to having the best long term outcome and peace of mind in the treatments we choose in our healing. Already having a Master's degree in Integrative Health and certification in Mind-Body medicine functional medicine was a natural fit and natural progression. Given my personal experience and professional training I have a particular interest in PTSD and the intersection of trauma and cancer. Whether you have a previous life experience of trauma I believe the process of cancer diagnosis and treatment is in itself a traumatic process and many of us suffer from PTSD and stress related sequelae due to the diagnosis. Moreover, I believe this is under-recognized, undiagnosed and many women are suffering needlessly.
In traditional medicine, as well as the big umbrella world of natural medicine, the intersection of trauma and health is too often ignored or simply not acknowledged. Fortunately, there is a growing awareness with some practitioners but there aren't many practitioners specializing in treatment particularly as it relates to cancer. Healing requires more than addressing this as only a physical issue, a psychological disturbance or taking antidepressants and other medications.
As I studied and worked with clients I came to realize that many women were suffering long term side effects well after surgery, chemo and radiation long after they "rang the bell" and thought it was over. Many of my clients were experiencing long term fatigue and exhaustion, brain fog and metabolic disturbances as a result of treatment. Not only that but the hormone management drugs that are prescribed have their own side effects that made these symptoms worse for so many. Even with these symptoms effecting quality of life many of my clients were not feeling listened to or heard by their oncologists and MD's and their VERY REAL symptoms were being dismissed or minimized. Even in the world of functional medicine there aren't a lot of practitioners who work in the area of cancer recovery and especially addressing physical psychological healing. It was seeing this lack of information and resources that prompted me to want to focus my work in this area and provide needed information and empowerment from a functional/integrative perspective as well as Mind-Body healing. Given my medical training and background I honestly believe most women find the best results when they utilize the best of both medical interventions and functional/integrative care.
Let's face it. A breast cancer diagnosis and treatment is not a linear point A to point Z process. Treatment is difficult, depersonalizing, emotionally distraught and we go through physical changes that challenge our sense of self. We have complications and issues that are common but not often discussed until you're in the middle of having them. In traditional medicine there is a standard of care with these life altering treatments that is applied to every women somewhat uniformly. In functional medicine the approach is not so much what disease do you have and more about who are you dealing with this disease and what do you uniquely need for your recovery. Too often clients try to white knuckle through the traditional treatment process, endure what is being done to their bodies and are often left feeling scared and disconnected. Many times the effects of going through this process aren’t apparent until the stressful, adrenaline pumped phase of active treatment is done. Only when we let our guard down (physically and emotionally) do we realize the long lasting effect on our hormonal balance, our physical health, our body image, our relationships, our sense of purpose, our overall health status and our sense of well being.
My husband often says I take the 30,000 foot view. I just know the combination of my own experiences and my academic and professional work have led me to a place of truly looking at healing from a an integrated perspective. Once again, who are you and how do you navigate this journey? We all know there are no easy choices here.
Please reach out and contact me if there is anything I can do to help you be more empowered and informed in your healing journey. I provide individual consults, ongoing coaching, education and specialized testing to help you reverse symptoms, make informed decisions, address trauma and restore your best health.
My weekly podcast Boobs Aren’t Worth Dying For - is a free resource where I interview thought leaders and healers in the world of integrative and functional medicine to support you in your breast cancer recovery. Please reach out at radicalhealthRN@gmail.com or schedule a free 30 minute phone consultation
In health and healing,
Training and Certifications:
Master’s degree (MSN) -Clinical Nurse Specialist Integrative Healing. Dominican University of California
Thesis: Post Traumatic Stress and Post Traumatic Growth in Cancer Recovery
Certified Advanced Mind-Body Medicine Practitioner
Center for Mind-Body Medicine - Georgetown
Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner
School of Applied Functional Medicine